Sonnets for Advent 17: Sonnet 66

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Today’s sonnet seems full of the winter blues, and perhaps reflects back some of the tiredness that can hit us at this time of year. A twelve-lined sentence limps emphatically forward, stitched together with the repetition of ‘And’ at the beginning of ten of those lines. The couplet reminds us of the tiredness we started with so that Sonnet 66 has the cumulative effect of a poetic yawn. The inventory of abuses has made this sonnet a popular expression of protest in totalitarian regimes. But there is a sense of prophecy here, too. The shape and tone are reminiscent of the Fool’s sonnet-length prophecy in The Tragedy of King Lear (3.2.81-95). But, like the end of the Fool’s prophecy, this sonnet brings us back to the overwhelming effect of the present situation. Although the poet has expressed dissatisfaction with the world as it is, escape is not desirable, since ‘to die I leave my love alone.’ Tiredness and a sense of the winter blues must simply be endured for the sake of love….

Sonnet 66 is here read by my colleague, Elizabeth Dollimore.

Sonnet 66
Tired with all these, for restful death I cry:
As, to behold desert a beggar born,
And needy nothing trimmed in jollity,
And purest faith unhappily forsworn,
And gilded honour shamefully misplaced,
And maiden virtue rudely strumpeted,
And right perfection wrongfully disgraced,
And strength by limping sway disabled,
And art made tongue-tied by authority,
And folly, doctor-like, controlling skill,
And simple truth miscalled simplicity,
And captive good attending captive ill.
Tired with all these, from these would I be gone,
Save that to die I leave my love alone.

Find out more about Shakespeare’s Sonnets via our free on-line course www.gettingtoknowshakespeare.com

Listen to the same sonnet being read by a student at the University of Tubingen by clicking here.

You might like to treat yourself to The Shakespeare Birthplace Trust’s own, exclusive edition of Shakespeare’s Sonnets, edited by our Honorary President, Professor Stanley Wells C.B.E., and beautifully printed by Oxford University Press. Find out more by clicking here.

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Author:Paul Edmondson

Head of Research and Knowledge and Director of the Stratford-upon-Avon Poetry Festival for The Shakespeare Birthplace Trust. Follow Paul on Twitter @paul_edmondson

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